Would You Want Your Daughter To Play Rugby?

09/09/2014 16:26 | Updated 20 May 2015

Girls playing rugby

The England Women's Rugby World Cup triumph was a fantastic boost for the game – but are mums and dads keen to let their daughters play?

Back in the 1990s, I was a keen footballer, playing in goal for a team in the East Midlands Women's League.

My mum wasn't overly delighted when I got my teeth kicked out, diving at the feet of a striker.

She was even less impressed when I suggested I might like to try rugby. "Oh NO! Don't do that! Please!" she begged in horror. Rugby was clearly a step too far.

Fast-forward 20 years, and have attitudes changed at all? Would I be happy for my two daughters to play rugby?

My husband admits he wouldn't be keen. "I would definitely support them if they really wanted to," he says. "But I'd rather they played another sport. Even if that does make me a massive sexist." (He's not a massive sexist...)

Parents just don't like to think of their children being trampled and kicked in the face. More so, if they're girls? Probably. It's still more acceptable for boys to sport broken noses and mangled ears than it is for girls to do the same.

But Suna Wilson, the proud mum of England World Cup winning winger Kay Wilson, says she never had any doubts about her daughter playing.

"I've always been completely happy with it," she says. "The friendships that my children have made through their sports has made any sacrifice well worth while."

She says there may be risks – but they are risks worth taking. "The girls do care about their looks, they do want to look their best when they go out," says Suna. "In the World Cup Final Kay had to come off and have stitches in her cheek. But she loves the game. They will get the odd knock or bump but it is massively worth it."

Also, Suna says, the stereotypical image of the battered rugby player with cauliflower ears isn't really accurate away from the men's professional game.

Sue Day, former captain of the England Women's rugby team, and a trustee for the Women's Sport Trust, says: "I'm sure it is an issue for some parents – for boys as well as girls, but probably more so for girls.

"Boys and men have been playing rugby for much longer in a much more visible way. With girls who want to play rugby – that's a longer journey for parents to make. They might not even have thought of it as an option for their daughters."

Sue remembers not even being allowed to play football at school. She didn't pick up a rugby ball until she was in her 20s – by which time it was a bit late for anyone to tell her what to do.

"There was still an element from some people of 'what? Women play rugby?' I don't think you get that any more," she says.

"Now, when daughters are saying they want to play rugby, there are role models out there for parents to see. The England team has achieved something phenomenal and you can see how much they get from it."

Article continues after this video.

How Did England Win the 2014 Women's Rugby World Cup?

Tag and touch rugby can also help ease girls and parents into the game. Nicola Ponsford, the RFU's Head of Performance (Women), says more women and girls are playing in England than ever, but the RFU is trying to make the game even more attractive.

"Modified games are a brilliant way to get fit whilst at the same time they introduce people to contact rugby at the rate they want to go at, which we have found very appealing to many people," she says.

Parents do clearly have a real fear of injuries when it comes to rugby – the full version, after all, is a serious contact sport.

There have been recent concerns about concussions suffered at the top level of English (men's) rugby, and spinal injuries, while rare, are also a worry. Then there are the potential broken noses, the dislocated shoulders and, yes, the cauliflower ears.

Catherine has a son and daughter – and wouldn't want either of them to play rugby. "I find it a bit like boxing - why would you inflict that much pain on yourself and call it fun and a sport?" she says. "Also, have you seen those cauliflower ears.... would spoil Lily's looks!"

Sally, who also has a boy and a girl, says: "I'd let Maddie play, but I'd be worried about caulie ears..."

Others, however, are inspired by the England women's exploits. Amy, the mother of two young daughters, says: "If the girls want to play rugby, I'd support them all the way!"

And Denise says she would be happy to let her daughter Caoimhe play rugby. "I used to play Gaelic football which was quite rough - had my head stamped on, kicked, shoved about - but it toughened me up," she says.

So what about my daughters? Well, right now, they're five and two, and the thought of them being trampled on a muddy field is less than appealing. But the older one is keen 'when I'm a bit bigger'.

I'm sure we can get used to the idea...

What do you think? Do your daughters play rugby?

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